Our conversation this week is coming from the world of business. Although I tend to encourage us to move away from strongly cognitive practices during grief work, this time we’re going to embrace one that you may not recognize as a powerful technique for grievers. It can be easy to obsess over and ruminate on thoughts and strategies to move through grief so rather than fight it, we are going to embrace the tendency and do it with intention.
When business leaders recognize an opportunity for growth, they will often employ what we call a SWOT analysis. That’s SWOT, and yes, it’s an acronym so don’t worry about having to remember a ton of complex details around this practice.
Before we get into it, I want to invite you to remember a concept we talked about a long time ago on the show called the locus of control. This concept asks us to reflect on the sense of agency we feel in our own lives. Are we able to control things around or inside us? This is a spectrum, so don’t feel like you are explicitly one external locus of control.
Someone with an internal locus of control will believe that they are a great influence over the things that occur in their lives. Abilities, actions, or mistakes impact what they experience. Someone with an external locus of control is going to feel that life is much more random, placing responsibility for the events in their lives on environmental factors, chance, or other people.
This is an important thing to reflect on because as we look at our lives through this SWOT analysis framework, it can be really easy to lose sight of who is truly responsible for our life experience. There will always be people that are making choices that affect us and we can’t help that but we can shift how we respond internally and externally for our benefit.
If you are taking notes the letters of the acronym stand for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A solid SWOT analysis is going to look at these in two phases – the internal, and the external. For this to be a meaningful exercise, you have to be really honest. It is very easy to create a subjective response to these questions and embody a victim mentality that struggles to recognize that things happening to us are not always about us.
That doesn’t mean things that are awful happen FOR us – I am not the coach who reframes trauma and wounding for the purpose of a successful program. Your motivation have to come from an internal fire that relies only on you to maintain. Pretending the traumas in our life were a gift or the motivator for our growth is a dismissive, small understanding of what integration and healing look like long term.
Back on track – phase one of a SWOT analysis is the internal approach where we assess our capabilities to identify strengths and weaknesses. This is easy in a corporate setting with parameters and reports and measuring tools. How do we do this as grievers?
Think about the things you have offered yourself through your grieving process that felt like a warm hug. What have you done really well for your own mind, heart, body, and spirit? If you’ve listened to this show for any duration of time, that counts. You decided to cut back on caffeine because you noticed your racing heart wasn’t helping your anxiety around death.
This process doesn’t have to take days. It doesn’t even need to take hours. You can take 15 minutes to reflect on the things you’ve done well and the areas that you feel solid within around capturing your own attention and bringing it back to the present when grief is noisy. In the same way, what are areas in your grief process where you need extra support? Maybe you are really good at noticing your thoughts being unhelpful, but you’re not sure what to do with that. Maybe you fully understand the logical and rational experience of grief but you have mostly insulated yourself against any outward expression of what you might feel in response to loss. Maybe you’ve placed your physical self on a backburner, not paying any attention the nourishment you deserve – or maybe you don’t even realize that your body deserves nourishment.
Once you’ve identified the internal areas of strength and weaknesses (or as I would much rather call them, arenas for growth), then you move into phase two. This phase is externally focused and often a very easy place for grievers to think about because we are used to assessing our surroundings and other people for threats.
In this phase, you want to determine what, if any, external factors are impacting your ability to heal. Are there people preventing you from creating space for yourself? Do the responsibilities you carry limit your free time to reflect? This isn’t a chance to lay blame on others or become emotionally inflamed about the way others need you. This is about remaining objective and observing your life for opportunities to shift or so-called threats to eliminate.
I think we have a pretty good idea of what would qualify as an opportunity, but let’s examine threats for a moment. In business, they’re somewhat clear – if the bottom line is impacted negatively, it’s a threat toward the success of the business.
So how do you measure your own bottom line? How can you determine if something is truly a threat to your flourishing or if it’s just annoying and you don’t like it?
You have to have a grasp on your purpose – something we truly lose sight of when we grieve. In our culture, our sense of self is conflated with the things we like to do and the people we want to be around – it’s an externally defined sense of self and purpose that can change in an instant (thanks, as you know, to death, dying, and grief).
Which means that in order to truly understand what would be considered a threat, we have to understand what internal sense of self and purpose is being threatened. Again, someone threatening our living situation like housing, a job, our family are obvious threats and that’s not what we’re talking about here.
What in your life do you encounter outside of yourself (or even thoughts/feelings/behaviors of your own) that threaten your confidence in the deep knowing of who you are?
No one wants to admit that they don’t know themselves very well, and it makes sense. That’s a vulnerable thing to recognize at any age, but especially for those of us who are out of our 20s. We were supposed to have found ourselves by now, right? And then it remains static so we can easily exist.
I’m actually glad that’s not true at all, but only because the person I was in my 20s and even early 30s was not even close to the person I dreamed about becoming – but when I tell you that I believed I was everything and brilliant and wonderful? It’s true. I was and I am now. My sense of self isn’t impacted by the external things I produce, but now I can look back at the younger me who wanted to belong and contribute, and who was searching for a sense of purpose and have compassion for her.
But now that I know myself even better, and can reflect honestly on my own strengths and weaknesses, I have more opportunity to embody myself with intention. My internal arenas for growth aren’t as scary because I’m not worried about how others will respond, nor am I scared that my façade of perfection will crack.
As we work through our grief, our sense of self should be deepening. Our confidence grows the more we hear our own voices grow steady when we advocate for what we need. Just like you deserve nourishment in your whole self, you deserve to know that even when you face another loss, you will not be destroyed. Rather, you will be able to apply the newfound understanding of your internal purpose and sense of self. You will trust that you know what you need, what you don’t, and how to create space to pursue the opportunities for growth and healing right in front of you.
Thanks for reading the transcript for episode 92 of Restorative Grief. Although this technique can be incredibly useful, like all tools, it has limitations. We may need to put more weight behind pursuing an opportunity than we do limiting a threat. Additionally, this tool can’t be used in isolation. Think of this as the quick fly over recon you might need to gain a lay of the land before you introduce other grief support tools and techniques. This is actually a great way for clients to determine areas where they could use some coaching support, which of course, I’m a huge fan of learning more about!
If this is your first time reading a transcript for the podcast, welcome and thank you for making time! Hope this very practical and linear tool reveals meaningful opportunities for growth and change in your own grief process.
If you want to learn more about the offerings here at Restorative Grief Coaching visit MandyCapehart.com/coaching or reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram at @MandyCapehart. Hearing your stories is part of my favorite things on social media, and while I will not coach you through the DMs, I’m happy to connect and I do have openings available in my practice if that’s something you want to pursue. Please leave a five star review wherever you get your podcasts and make sure you subscribe to the show so you don’t miss any of our weekly episodes.
Thanks to all my Patrons and premium subscribers for continuing to support this work – it means the world to have you behind me! And before we go as always, one last thing. Please remember, the only solution for grief is to do the work of grieving. Thanks for reading. We’ll see you in two weeks!
Links + Resources for this episode: